Travel

My Trip to Krakow

Day One

We arrived in Krakow at 3pm and after making our way through the Airport, we were met by our taxi driver and set off to the hotel. We had booked to stay for four nights in the Qubus Hotel, which I cannot recommend enough. The Qubus Hotel is located perfectly on the bank of the Vistula River and next to the old town Jewish Quarter, Kazimierz. The rooms were simple, yet comfortable, and were cleaned everyday to a high standard. Once we had unpacked our luggage, we walked to the Galeria Kazimierz shopping centre, which boasts one hundred and thirty shops. After a quick shop we wandered down to the Main Square, which is a site to behold, filled with 12th Century Gothic buildings and Krakow’s Cloth Hall.

 

Main Square

Situated in the Old Town, the Main Square is the perfect place to be in ‘hub’ of Krakow. Being a fifteen minute walk from the Square meant that we spent a good portion of trip sitting in or wandering through it. The Square is surrounded by historical buildings and is home to St Mary’s Basilica and Krakow’s Cloth Hall. This was one of my favourite spots in Krakow as the architecture is simply stunning, and dates all the way back to the twelfth century. This is the perfect place for sight-seeing, people-watching, and sampling some of Krakow’s best eats (The food is great value for money, even on the Main Square…I know!)

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St Mary’s Basilica

St Mary’s Basilica is quite possibly one of the most beautiful churches I have ever visited. Filled with gothic interior and the breathtaking craftsmanship of, the blue starred ceiling, alter, and stain glass windows, it is more than worth a visit.  The altarpiece was handcrafted by German artist, Veit Stoss, in the fifteenth century. However, during the Nazi occupation the altar was dismantled and taken back to Germany and hidden, ten years later it was returned to Poland.

If you find yourself in the Main Square, every hour a bugle will sound from the highest tower. The bugle plays but ends abruptly, and legend has it that this is because a watchman had spotted enemy forces approaching, so sounded the alarm, but was killed by an arrow to the throat.

Tickets can be purchased at a booth across the road and you will need a separate ticket to take photos, which is definitely worth it.

 

Krakow Zoo

If you know me and my boyfriend, then you know we like to try and cram a zoo trip into any place we visit, and Krakow was no exception. Krakow Zoo is located in the middle of a forest, yup you read that right. We took a bus from the Cracovia Stadion to the zoo, which took fifteen minutes total and we were driven right up to the zoo. If you decide to hire a car and drive to Krakow zoo, the car park is lower down, so you will have a very long walk up a steep hill to make! Once at the zoo we paid for two tickets coming to 36PLN equalling to just £8, which is amazing value.

I was really impressed with the zoo, the animals looked happy; their environment was clean and well tended to, as were the other facilities within the zoo. There are lots of animals to see, even some we had never heard of. There are a couple of places around the zoo to grab snacks; this was a little harder for me as I am a pescatarian, so I opted for the Polish delicacy of a zapiekanka. A zapiekanka is an open faced toasted sandwich made of half a baguette or bread roll, topped with mushrooms, cheese and ketchup and other ingredients if you wish. I have to admit, I was a big fan of the zapiekanka, I mean who doesn’t love toasted sandwiches? Only this one was practically the size of my arm.

 

Vistula River

We decided to walk back from the Cracovia Stadion and go along the Vistula River. Although we didn’t get the opportunity, you can take cruises along the river. Our hotel offered free Q-Boat cruises along the river every hour which last around twenty five minutes. This is one thing I wish we could have crammed in, but is an incentive to return!

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Wawel Castle/ Dragons Den & Sandomierska

On the walk up to the castle you will pass a mini walk of fame, featuring the handprints of Benedict Cumberbatch, Tim Roth, Michael Jackson and many more. We arrived at the castle at 3pm so only tickets for the Dragons Den & Sandomierska Tower were available, which we were more than happy with. We visited the Sandomierska Tower first, which is one of the castles two artillery towers. The tower was built in the 1400’s and was designed to strengthen defence, house firearms and artillery, served as guards quarters or a prison. For just 4PLN you can climb the towers one hundred and thirty seven steps and see views of Krakow like no other.

We then made our way to the Dragons Den which is a legendary cave within Wawel Hill. The legend tells of a dragon, Smok, who roamed the tunnels within the cave, which each week needed to eat a fixed number of cattle. If the city dwellers could not provide the number of cattle required, the dragon would punish them by taking the equivalent number of human heads. The legend goes onto tell of King Cracus, who called upon his sons to help with ridding the town of the dragon. The ending I won’t spoil, and also because it has changed over time, but it is worth a read if you have the time. We saved this until last as the exit of the caves takes you back onto the river bank below, where you will find a bronze statue of the dragon Smok. In total it cost 14PLN so just under £6 each.

 

Auschwitz I & Auschwitz Birkenau

On our last day we had pre booked a tour to visit both Auschwitz camps. In total it cost us seventy seven euro online for transport their and back and our guided tour. Although you do not have to take a guided tour, you can take a bus from the bus station and visit the camps without a guide. I’m really glad we went with a guided tour, as I found it to be extremely informative, and our guide really took her time explaining everything and was very patient with the group.  It is really difficult to put the experience into words; words that I feel will never do it justice. It really is just a place everyone should visit, remember and learn from. Nothing will change your outlook more.

It is important to visit both camps, as Auschwitz I was the first camp built, followed by Auschwitz Birkenau. Both are harrowing, but I found Birkenau the more chilling of the two. Our guide reinforced this by saying that in terms of sleeping conditions, survivors had said that Auschwitz I was like a five star hotel compared to Birkenau. Needless to say both are eerie and will leave you with a heavy heart.

 

Where We Ate/Drank

 

Hard Rock Cafe

An obvious choice, but one that is not to be missed! We ate here on our first night as it is situated in the Main Square. We were lucky enough to be seated by the window which overlooks the whole of the square. Like all Hard Rocks it has a great atmosphere, lovely food, and yummy cocktails!

 

Bonerowska

Please bear with me. This find was to the right of the Main Square and in a prime spot for people watching. We sat outside, despite it being quite an overcast day, but the restaurant had outdoor heaters and blankets for the ultimate hygge feel. The staff were lovely and attentive and the food was very nice and reasonably priced.

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Kogel Mogel

This was a find on our way into the Main Square. The lighting is dimmed and candles are dotted around the tables, again the cosiness levels are at max in Krakow! We really wanted to try some local delicacies, so we opted for dumplings and polish cheesecake, which were amazing! One thing I was slightly disappointed about was the soup, it came served in a traditional bread bowl, however they only served meat options so that was a no-go for me.

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Grande Grill

The surroundings of this restaurant are beautiful, if you get the chance head straight through to the back of this restaurant and sit in the garden area. Mostly renowned for its steaks and burgers (and no vegetarian option burger-wise), I thought I was going to be stealing chips from my boyfriends plate. Luckily, they did have fish options, although only two, and aside from that it would have been salad. I know, I know, if you go to a steakhouse what do you expect? But a couple more options would have earned the place a couple more bonus points.

 

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Bierhalle

I’ve always wanted to go to Oktoberfest in Germany, but haven’t quite got round to it yet. However, we found a bar/restaurant that had an Oktoberfest atmosphere, with the staff dressed in traditional Dirndl dresses and one litre beers are served. We had eaten at the Grande Grill before this, so we just had one of the infamous large beers each. Needless to say, we were there awhile and I think we made it two minutes down the road before we got a taxi!

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Moo Steak & Burger Club

We went here on our last night as it was my boyfriend’s birthday. So how did I fare here I here you ask? Well there was not a veggie burger in site, only fish and salad options again, have I not learnt by now? Although it was his birthday, so his choice, so I opted for a feta salad with a side order of chips. I really enjoyed it, so much so, I’ve been making it for dinner since we got back, plus it’s an excuse for me to eat more olives (like I need one).

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If you’re looking for a city-break that will keep you busy but also keep some money in your pocket then Krakow is the one for you. The food and drink is ridiculously inexpensive, and such great value for the taste and what you get. You really do get more for your money. The city caters to everyone, having everything from great shopping centres, history, the ultimate foodie cuisine, scenery and so much more to explore. There are a few things we did not manage to fit in whilst we were there, but we left knowing we would certainly be heading back there one day.

If you do have any recommendations of must-sees in Krakow please let me know! Also where are some other great locations for city breaks?

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Book Review

The Sisters by Claire Douglas Review

IMG_0497 (1)One lied. One died.

When one sister dies, the other must go to desperate lengths to survive. Haunted by her twin sister’s death, Abi is making a fresh start in Bath. But when she meets twins Bea and Ben, she is quickly drawn into their privileged and unsettling circle.

When one sister lies, she must protect her secret at all costs. As Abi tries to keep up with the demands of her fickle friends, strange things start to happen – precious letters go missing and threatening messages are left in her room. Is this the work of the beautiful and capricious Bea? Or is Abi willing to go to any lengths to get attention? When the truth outs, will either sister survive?

 

The Sisters revolves around the character of Abi, who lost her twin sister Lucy in a tragic accident which she feels she could have prevented. Abi feels completely lost, until she meets Beatrice, a free spirited artist, with the added bonus of resembling Lucy. Grieving Abi is enchanted by Beatrice and her twin brother Ben, and once asked to move in; she sees the twins and the house as the perfect fresh start. Abi has craved company since the loss of her sister, and the regular parties, meals, and borrowing of Bea’s clothes provides the inclusivity she needs. However as Abi is drawn further into Beatrice and Ben’s world, cracks begin to emerge in the relationships, dark secrets are bubbling just under the surface, and sanity is slipping away.

The novel jumps between the narratives of protagonists Abi and Beatrice, both of which are unreliable narrators. I really liked this aspect of The Sisters as it left me questioning almost everything, particularly the sanity of the characters. I found myself trusting one character and then flitting to the other, but as always with one of Douglas’ novels, I was suspicious of everyone. This narrative works perfectly for the genre of this novel, Douglas builds up suspense and tension perfectly, and making you question everything you believe about these characters and what menacing events are to come.

I have to say I was fascinated by all of the characters, particularly the relationship between Beatrice and Ben. The twins are inseparable, possessive of each other and share a bond like no other, which makes for some uncomfortable reading. However, all of the characters in The Sisters are heavily flawed in their own way, but much like Abi with Beatrice, I was captivated by them all and their personalities, despite not all of them being particularly likeable.

My favourite character was Abi, who I felt was the only person I could trust and who I sympathised with throughout. The constant battle between her and Bea made for a gripping read, as both were out to make the other appear insane, yet at times appeared as though they needed each other. As with Local Girl Missing, Douglas’ evocative writing style left me yearning for the truth, not only about whom is behind all the strange happenings in the house, but about the characters themselves.

The plot works superbly for a psychological thriller as it is filled with clever twists, the eerie setting of the townhouse, and suspicious characters whose lives are dominated by lies and deceit. I could not predict what was going to happen from chapter to chapter, and was surprised by every twist thrown my way, which was a massive plus.

Overall, I would highly recommend The Sisters, if not for its fascinating characters alone, it certainly fits the bill. I finished the novel a couple of days ago and find still myself thinking about it now. The ending was rather abrupt; it left me wanting more and if I’m being completely honest, frantically googling for other theories on it. I hope it was written this way to set up a sequel in the future, if not it lets the reader conjure up their own idea of what happened next. I strongly suggest freeing up some days for this book as it won’t be leaving your hands. Douglas you have done it again, another fantastic read.

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An Acne Update

So a few weeks ago I wrote a post about my acne journey so far (if you missed it you can read it here: https://beautyandthescribbles.wordpress.com/2017/05/24/me-my-skin-and-my-acne/). When I wrote this post I had recently started using a new skincare range, and wanted to really put it to the test before I wrote a post on it. I’m pleased to say that a month later, I am starting to see improvements with my skin (and believe me, I never say that!). So without further ado, the skincare range I have been using is from the brand Environ. It’s a very simple routine and one that you must stick to in order for it to work.  You can find out more about Environ and the science behind the products on their site here: http://www.environskincare.com/about-us/

Here is my skin since the last blog post, again completely unedited:

And it’s fair to say, I’m super impressed with the results. I’m not saying that my spots have disappeared completely by any means, but that something is finally starting to make a difference. So much so, that I went out completely make up free the other day, and for me, that was a pretty big deal.

So here is a breakdown of the products I have been using so far:

Environ Professional: Cleansing Gel

This is the face wash aspect of the routine. It’s a clear gel which lathers and foams once mixed with water. The aim is to remove any excess oil from the skins surface, allowing the rest of the products in the routine to work their magic. I like this product because after each use my skin feels clean, and plus it’s a face wash my skin actually gets along with! Bonus points for this product because it can also be used on the body.

Environ Professional Alpha Toner Forte

You know those days where make-up just doesn’t want to come off? This product is all for helping you out with that. After using the cleansing gel, I follow up with the toner, which I apply to cotton wool pads and use one for each section of my face. This ensures that any make-up residue is removed and my skin is fully prepped to heal at its best. Environ claim that this product is made to enhance the workings of the other products by supporting the skins natural PH, and shedding of dead skin cells.

Environ Intensive Antioxidant Gel

Environ describe this product as ‘a special cocktail of high antioxidant vitamins’, which just makes me want to slather it all over my face so it can give me goddess skin (a girl can dream right?).  I like to think of this as the moisturiser part of the routine, which I apply morning and night after washing my face. The Antioxidant Gel is orange, which on first appearances looks like it’s going to be sticky, but it goes on like a dream.  I feel like I’m giving my skin a treat with this product, with it having so much goodness in it, I can’t help but love it.

Environ Hydroxy Gel

This little tubes aim is skin renewal, containing fruit acids to help heal any damage to the skin, and delicate exfoliation for a clear complexion. Environ recommend this product for all skin types, as it claims to even skin texture, and works with moisturises containing Vitamin A to enhance the anti-aging effects of the vitamin. I currently use this product three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and at the very end of my skin routine before bed. It is a gentle product and after using it for a little while now, I notice a difference from using it the night before. Initially when I read the words ‘hydroxy acids’, I thought, surely I cannot put such a strong product on my face?! But it is extremely gentle and aims to reach below the skins surface.

When I first started using these products my skin flared up, because the range is designed to bring any impurities to the surface before the skin can start to heal.  The products are a little pricey when totalled up, but once I add up the amount I (and others) have spent on my skin over the past twelve years, it doesn’t seem too bad. I’ve finally found something that I believe is working for me, and I can’t tell you what I relief that is!

What products do you guys use for your skin problems? Have you ever tried any Environ products, if so what did you think?

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